Everyone in Olean is excited to see the St. Bonaventure guard combination of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley wreck havoc on college basketball again. The top returning scoring duo in Division I basketball was expected to return to action tonight in the opener against Niagara, but an injury in the Bonnies' scrimmage with Alfred could push that back.
The status of Adams, the Blue Ribbon Yearbook and NBC Preseason Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, is unknown after he suffered an ankle injury Saturday. St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said he's gone through rehab this week and the hope is he'll play. Adams led all scorers in last year's Niagara-St. Bonaventure game at KeyBank Center, shooting 7 for 11 from the field for 23 points.
If Adams is held out, St. Bonaventure faces a tough test in a Purple Eagles team that got within eight points in the closing minutes of last year's matchup. Niagara returns 88 percent of its scoring and is predicted to make the jump from ninth in the MAAC to fifth in the preseason coaches poll. Schmidt said the Purple Eagles are as good as they've been since Chris Casey took over the program in 2013.
"Chris has done a really good job of getting some continuity," Schmidt said. "They're much improved and they're going to have a good season. ... We've got to play well if we think we'll have a chance to win."
Adams sitting out would mean more of a spotlight on Mobley, entering his second season with St. Bonaventure. He handled the pressure well last year when Adams missed the Fordham game with injury. The Bonnies shooting guard shot 5 for 9 from three-point range for a team-high 25 points in a 73-53 victory at Blue Cross Arena.
While the Bonnies face questions at point guard for the opener, Niagara is set with Kahlil Dukes. He was problematic for St. Bonaventure last season, scoring 21 points and getting to the line eight times. Dominic Robb, who set the Niagara single-season block record last season, was an efficient 5 for 6 against the Bonnies. This year, he could take advantage of a young St. Bonaventure front court.
Niagara is looking to steal a victory as it begins a challenging stretch of four straight road games to start the season. After St. Bonaventure the Purple Eagles face another team with high NCAA Tournament aspirations, No. 15 Minnesota, before seeing UMass and BYU at the Barclays Center Classic.
"You always want to be in the confines of home, but these are going to be great opportunities for us to go against four really good teams," Casey said.